A hush fell over the sellout crowd of 13,407 fans as Obi Toppin lay on the court in pain after rolling his ankle in the second half. That crowd included the Dayton Flyers star’s mom Roni Toppin and godfather Victor Monaros, not to mention seven NBA scouts scattered throughout the building watching the future pro.
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Fans raised the decibel level all night as the No. 15 Flyers (14-2, 3-0), the second-most experienced team in the Atlantic 10 Conference, dominated Massachusetts, the league’s youngest team, from the opening tip. A 14-2 run to open the game led to a 48-22 halftime lead, Dayton’s largest of the season, and an 88-60 victory.
All in all, it would have been the perfect afternoon for Dayton and its fans — except for the Toppin injury.
While the redshirt sophomore forward said after the game, “It’s good,” as he walked to the locker room wearing a protective boot, it was too early to say whether he would be able to play Tuesday against Virginia Commonwealth (12-4, 2-1) in one of the most important games on the A-10 schedule.
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“Sprained ankle is the indication right now,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said in the post-game press conference. “I think the next 24 hours will tell us more in terms of how it reacts, but it was good to see him be able to walk back to the bench under his own power. The last three minutes of the game, he was there in good spirits.”
Toppin suffered the injury with 15 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the second half. He had 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting at that point, and Dayton led 56-31. Toppin appeared to step on another player’s foot as he was getting back down the court on offense and fell near midcourt.
Toppin’s teammates came to his aid right away, as did Grant and trainer Mike Mulcahey.
“Your teammate and your friend who’s with you 24/7, you want him to be OK,” Dayton forward Ryan Mikesell said. “That’s kind of where my mind was. I was just hoping it wasn’t a serious injury.”
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After getting to his feet, Toppin put his arm around center Jordy Tshimanga for support but then walked off the court under his own power. He remained in the locker room until returning to the bench in the final minutes.
“I talked to him on the bench, and he was joking around,” Mikesell said. “I don’t know the specifics, but obviously, Mike’s going to do his best to get him to play on Tuesday. If not, it’s the next-man-up mentality. We’ll go with what we have.”
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Even without Toppin, Dayton will have a chance to beat VCU, which lost 65-56 at home to Rhode Island on Saturday. The Flyers won their fifth straight game and extended their streak of double-digit victories to 13.
Dayton beat the Minutemen (7-9, 1-2) by shooting 51.4 percent from the floor. They struggled from 3-point range (5 of 19) but made 31 of 51 shots from 2-point range and limited turnovers to 11.
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Dayton’s defensive effort, especially in the first half, may have made a bigger difference. UMass shot 26.1 percent in the first half and 48.3 percent in the second half. It committed 21 turnovers. Dayton tied a season high with 12 steals.
“Our guys did a great job of making it difficult, making them uncomfortable,” Grant said “which allowed us to get out in transition and build a lead. The first half from start to finish was really good from a defensive standpoint.”
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